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EDITORIAL: Hospital steps up for urgent need

| November 20, 2022 1:00 AM

Morally, there is nothing better we can do as human beings than to help our neighbors.

But practically, there is also nothing better we can do as human beings than help our neighbors.

One by one and 10 by 10, Kootenai Health is covering the moral and practical aspects of that principle with its newly opened detox unit.

Before anyone dogpiles on the cruel and misguided myth that people with addiction problems aren’t worthy of support because “they did this to themselves,” a healthy dose of compassion and honesty is in order. Who among us doesn’t have a loved one who has endured the hell of some form of addiction? And how many of them are unworthy of love and help?

To that end, Kootenai Health opened an alcohol and opioid detox unit last month despite overall financial and staffing challenges. Especially in light of the increase in substance abuse occurring during the pandemic, there might be no greater public service the hospital could have rendered North Idaho.

In an interview with The Press, Claudia Miewald, KH’s director of behavioral health services, said the unit can care for up to 10 patients at a time.

Not surprisingly, the unit has been busy, providing 24/7 detox care under physician supervision to 62 patients in just the first month. Two-thirds have been treated for alcohol withdrawal; the other third opioids, primarily fentanyl.

Most patients, Miewald said, are in the unit from three to five days before taking the next medically-supervised step in their recovery, which the hospital can facilitate.

So what does detox really come down to? Going through that excruciating withdrawal process alone can be dangerous or even fatal, Miewald said. The safest and most effective way to get someone through it is with professional, around-the-clock care.

The detox addition, called Adult Recovery Unit, accepts not just insurance plans, but Medicaid as well. That’s a rarity in the field and proof that Kootenai Health is putting help above profit.

Despite financial challenges that led hospital leadership to cut back on some behavioral health programs earlier this year, Miewald said the detox unit came to fruition because it was so desperately needed.

Space already existed within the hospital, she said, and some of the staffing needs were met by professionals who came back to work because they’re so passionate about this particular mission.

“This is an effort to address a critical need in the community,” she said. “This provides hope for a lot of people.”

The Press applauds Kootenai Health for making the service available, easily accessible (simply call 208-625-4848 for help) and effective.

Practically speaking, even if you aren’t concerned about the lives that are transformed because of this service, you might appreciate the many positive impacts for the community and society at large. Sick people who get well become happier individuals who keep jobs, raise healthier families and contribute to their communities in countless ways.

And if you’re the rare person whose circle of loved ones doesn’t include someone battling addiction? Maybe you just need a larger circle.

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